In a recent piece for Harper's Bazaar entitled "Are There Real Friends In Fashion?" the prominent fashion journalist muses on the subject of friendships existing in an industry known for its fickle tastes and sometimes difficult personalities, specifically friendships between journalists and designers.
My instant response to the title alone was, of course there are, just as friendships exist amongst music and film writers and their subjects, food writers and chefs...artists and writers of any type who work in the same industry and truly get what the other is about and what they're creating in that specific world. Of course this might be a surprise to some who still believe there's a church-and-state-like separation between the two, and to those individuals, I really applaud their steadfast, quaint notions, I really do. But I'd also suggest they're probably not reading much these days.
It doesn't take that much scrutiny to understand that almost any story about an individual and his or her creative endeavors requires insight accessible through certain channels of trust. As the subtitle to Horyn's piece says, "The most meaningful stuff in fashion occurs in private places, and some degree of trust is vital to getting inside," which is a truism that isn't exclusive to fashion alone, but right now, we're talking about fashion.
In the fall of 2011, I wrote a story for a fashion website that focused on street photographers during New York Fashion Week: what their days were like, what aesthetics and individual styles they each gravitated towards, how they related to one another. It took knowing one of the photographers I featured to help introduce me to the handful of others I wanted to include. Having that association was solid gold. When there were opportunities for lunch breaks, I was invited along; I volunteered to watch backpacks and sacks when someone needed to dash off for a photo because it simply felt strange not to; sometimes we'd squeeze into cabs if there was an especially tight window between shows, cameras and equipment tangled up between us and our awkwardly twisted limbs; and laughter was a near-constant (my own too).
If it weren't for my pre-existing relationship with that one photographer, I doubt I would have been welcomed into the fold as easily and quickly, especially given Fashion Week's limited span. From this experience I forged new relationships—if not friendships, then friendly connections—that resulted in a second, more in-depth story that I wrote for the New York Times on female street photographers.
Simply put, that's how these stories get written. Not from press releases, nor google searches, but from the unique position of having inside access. Horyn mentions in her essay that she was admonished by her editor at the Times for a piece she wrote about the fashion designer L'wren Scott in the days following her death. Horyn's tribute, which referenced a Thanksgiving dinner, among other intimately shared moments, revealed that Scott was more than just a colleague or industry acquaintance. And what's wrong with that? Horyn wasn't being a critic at that moment, but a journalist and a friend—and she made no efforts to conceal it, which to me, was a disclosure that gave her piece that much more authority. It was a good read, it was an admirable tribute, and I'm glad that Horyn wrote it.
As is the case with all things human, few things in this world are so black and white. It's up to us to read between the lines.